The Magic Behind A Grey's Anatomy Wedding
The show's set decorator and costume designer explain what happens behind the scenes of a Grey's wedding!
Imagine planning a big wedding. You'll need a venue, florist, dress, designer, and a tailor. Now, imagine getting all of it done in only three weeks time. Stressed yet?
Well, this is basically the life of Grey's Anatomy set decorator, Nicole Cramer. She's been on since Season 5 of Grey's, but also previously worked as a shopper, under set decorator Karen Bruck, on Cristina Yang's wedding to Preston Burke in Season 3.
"I'm not a wedding planner, but we always joke that I could be after how many weddings we’ve done," Cramer said in the interview with Cosmopolitan.
Despite her important work with the show, Cramer does not work alone. Could you imagine? Thankfully, she is part of a team of people, including a production designer and propers master. They also work with TV money, which means they're working with a pretty nice budget. For example, the set budget for April Kepner's wedding without a reception was about $20,000. Then budget for Miranda Bailey's wedding and reception was about double that! Crazy!
Another significant member of the wedding planning team is Mimi Melgaard, who has been the costume designer since Season 3.
"Everyone’s always shocked when they find out we've put a wedding together in 10 days," Melgaard said.
Now, both Cramer and Melgaard are letting us in on their secrets behind 8 magical Grey's weddings!
1. Cristina Yang And Preston Burke (Season 3 Finale)
Theme: "The instruction I got was ‘Shonda’s dream wedding'," said Bruck. "That kinda freaked me out. I said, 'Oh my god, how am I going to live up to that?' So they gave me the color scheme that she loved, which was the green and the dark brown - see, it affected me, that I remember so many years later. And lots of flowers. We had to make it a little over the top so it was definitely not Cristina’s personality. Nothing about it was her personality."
Dress: "That dress was so over the top for Cristina, with the bling and the necklace," Melgaard said. "Everything about it was so not her, and she was so trying to be that person for Burke. On paper, if you saw a picture of her, you’d be like, 'Oh, she looks so beautiful, it’s so perfect for her.' And then you cut back and it’s like, 'But that’s not her at all.' And I’m sure that there are brides who can relate to that in real life — being dressed up and propped up and having to walk through and have a wedding with 200 people, and you only want to talk to four."
The Rip: "There was a stunt dress we used for Meredith to cut," Melgaard said. "We took the zipper out and inserted a piece of silk fabric that was attached by Velcro and she cut into that, and that piece of silk was easily replaceable for each take we needed to shoot. We still have both dresses — we save everything in storage. We have a bridal room with all of the bridal dresses and bridesmaids."
2. Izzie Stevens And Alex Karev (Season 5, Episode 22)
Theme "Her wedding was the fairytale wedding - over the top, with candles, romantic," Cramer said. "That was Shonda’s notes: that Izzie was living vicariously through Meredith by planning the best, most beautiful wedding she could. And there was a note [to use] lots of candles and flowers and tulle and twinkle lights."
Dress: "That one was interesting because it was supposed to be Meredith’s dress for her wedding to Derek, and then Izzie gets sick," Melgaard said. "So we knew all along it had to be something that looks good on Izzie - it’s definitely an Izzie dress. It's Kenneth Pool for Amsale and they did some alterations for us, like lowered the waistline and changed her neckline a bit. Shonda and I wanted her to feel like a princess - you know, it’s a princess wedding, she could be dying. So it’s a big, beautiful dress with sparkles."
Location: "We looked at so many churches,” Cramer said. "I think this one was the grandest and most beautiful. It had the stained glass and the mezzanine on the top, so we were able to drape flowers from the mezzanine."
3. Arizona Robbins And Callie Torres (Season 7, Episode 20)
Dresses: "[We wanted] to make the girls look different so it doesn’t look like two big, white dresses," Melgaard said. "I knew I wanted to do a more traditional one on Callie because she’s from a more traditional family, her family’s Catholic. That’s why I put the veil on her. I altered her dress quite a bit. I changed the neckline, but I still felt like it was missing something, so I had some custom sparkly sleeves made.
Location: Descanso Gardens. "There’s a round stage with a big ring that’s already built into it at the top, so we just attached the pink-and-white plastic streamers to the top of that and draped them over the stage," Cramer said. "And then we did a pink carpet. We called it the pink wedding. Very girly and sweet. Those were the notes that we got."
The Cake: "We found somebody local in Los Angeles to make the little cake topper to match Callie and Arizona and their dresses," Cramer said. "Shonda actually has that cake topper in her office now. Shonda also wanted a candy bar. We bought the jars at a Muscatels and then picked all the pink and white candies that looked good at a candy shop. We made such a great candy bar but you never see it!"
4. Cristina Yang And Owen Hunt (Season 7, Episode 1)
Christina's wedding was "a home wedding, sweet and sophisticated," Cramer said, so the decorations were kept simple and the dress was vintage.
"She already had a wedding that was so unlike her, so I wanted this one to feel like her," Melgaard said. "Shonda and Sandra Oh [who played Cristina Yang] both loved it."
5. Miranda Bailey And Ben Warren (Season 9, Episode 10)
Dress: "Bailey is that perfect mix of a soft, feminine person who has a strong job," Melgaard said. "That’s why she always wears shirts that have something like a floral pattern - I think in her mind, she’s more of a feminine person. But she’s the boss. Like all successful women, she has to change gears and be focused. So I wanted a really feminine dress for her. We started with a dress and altered it a lot - I added the bling around the sweetheart neckline. I added the belt."
"On TV, I can buy a very expensive, custom-made dress from Italy or a dress from downtown Los Angeles, and it doesn’t matter as long as it works on the body," Melgaard added. "Chandra [Wilson, who plays Bailey] looks so good in things that hug her figure, which is amazing, that I just went for it."
Location: Calamigos Ranch. “I think this wedding was my favorite because it was the hardest," Cramer said. "A huge labor of love. Just picture that room completely empty. We only had one week, two at most, to get that wedding together, and so much detail went into it. We tried to make it very sparkly and romantic and beautiful."
In The Details: "I loved the table settings. We had fresh lavender in the napkin rings," Cramer said. "We worked really closely with the florist, Sandy Rose - we have a wonderful relationship with them and they help us execute our vision beautifully by adding little touches, like glitter to the pine cones. And then we had twinkle lights in mercury vases. We bought all the mercury glass they had downtown."
The Surprise Dress: "That was an interesting episode because it went into Richard dancing with his wife, Adele, who’d just died," Cramer said. "We had to get a dress for her too. We tried to get something that felt vintage-y since their wedding was supposed to be decades ago."
6. April Kepner And Matthew Taylor (Season 10, Episode 12)
Dress: "Once I heard Shonda describing the barn feeling, I knew exactly what I wanted, so I was going to have it made," Melgaard said. "But when I was getting some pictures for inspiration, to get the dress approved before I had it made, I found the exact dress that I saw in my mind online, with this designer Peter Langner out of Rome. They sent me a sample overnight that didn’t fit [Sarah Drew, who plays April], but we at least saw it in person. We sent Sarah's measurements and Peter made it with very few changes [to the original]. The process is usually four or five months for real brides, and he did it lickety-split. He was amazing and his workmanship is amazing."
Location: Windy Hill Ranch at El Campeon Farms. "We knew it was going to be a barn wedding to reflect on April’s past," Cramer said. "We got that note right off the bat. Of all the weddings, this one was probably the least stressful because the venue was pretty already. Of course, what you’re seeing out the barn doors, the mountain and the lake, are a green screen."
In The Details: "We plan the wedding around the character," Cramer said. "So April has little signs made — 'Happily ever after starts here.' We were like, 'April would do this, for sure.'"
"[Same with] the butterflies, which were scripted," Cramer added. "And I think the 'Mint to Be' favors were also scripted. Somebody must have seen that on a wedding planning blog."
Flowers: "We got the fabrics from the bridesmaids' dresses [in advance] and that helped us choose the flowers" Cramer said. "With the orange, we kind of went off April’s red hair. Everyone thinks flowers are so expensive, but they really do make the wedding beautiful, they bring in the color - that’s where you don’t want to cut corners."
Lighting: "We always do a lot of twinkle lights, they make everything look magical," Cramer said. "We also made a couple of X's and O's out of twinkle lights, and we did a heart shape out of them. I don’t think we saw that [on the show]. Sometimes things that we want to make it into the shots don’t make it in. We were nervous that the chandeliers weren’t going to get in, because Shonda had requested big, beautiful chandeliers, and we really loved them.” And we're pretty happy to see that they made the final cut!
7. Richard Webber And Catherine Avery (Season 11 Finale)
Dress: "That one I made," Melgaard said. "I wanted that color, so I just made it here in-house. I have a wonderful full-time seamstress. I brought her the drawing, and all of a sudden, she made it, including the jacket. We did a fitting with Debbie [Allen, who plays Catherine] and it was perfect."
Location: "The reception took place at Meredith and Derek's house, which we called the 'The Dream House,'" Cramer said. "It was the last time we ever filmed on that set."
The (Missing) Cake: "We had a real, three-tier wedding cake by Cake and Art in Los Angeles, and we cut into it as if they had already cut the cake," Cramer said. "I can't remember if we see that in the episode. I'm pretty sure the crew enjoyed it at the end of the night."
8. Amelia Shepherd And Owen Hunt (Season 12, Episode 24)
Theme: "Amelia’s is definitely more eccentric," Cramer said. "We used fresh wild flowers - Shonda wanted the wedding to be intimate and romantic, with candles, wild flowers, and a harp musician."
Dress: "I had to have three dresses for this one," Melgaard said. "[Caterina Scorsone, who plays Amelia] was secretly pregnant, so I had to choose a loose silhouette because nobody [from the show] knew she was pregnant besides Shonda and me."
What was your favorite wedding, Grey's fans?!
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